On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden began his week-long official trip to Europe. It is Biden’s first official trip abroad since he took office and is expected to be a significant one. Biden has to reverse four years of diplomatic estrangement with Europe under Trump and secure US alliances abroad to contain challenges from a belligerent Russia and a rising China.
As she arrived in Britain for the first major leg of this trip, Biden made a speech asserting that the “US is back” and calling on the democracies of the world to stand together.
While in Britain, Biden will head to Cornwall for a meeting with UK PM Boris Johnson on Thursday, followed by a G7 summit.
His meeting with Johnson is expected to centre on renew their ‘special relationship’ following UK’s break from the European Union. The two leaders are also expected to sign a new Atlantic charter in the same spirit as one signed by the two countries at the end of the Second World War.
Much like the original one, this particular iteration of the charter will set out the combined vision of the US and UK regarding future challenges for democracies and the world at large. Cyber-attacks and climate change are two known threats that will be featured in this charter.
On a more grounded note, the charter will also cover more immediate issues like the reopening of transatlantic travel and a negotiated end to ongoing trade disputes between Boeing and Airbus.
Another critical issue that will be covered in this charter are protections for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which the US had helped broker. The agreement was a crucial step in ending civil strife in Northern Ireland following its split from the Republic of Ireland.
Ongoing Brexit disputes threaten the agreement and America has warned the UK that any disruptions to the old agreement could have serious consequences for any future trade deals the US has with the country.
Following his meeting with Johnson, Biden will be heading to a special session of the G7 which will also include leaders from South Korea, Australia and India. PM Modi will not be attending the meeting in person due to India’s COVID situation and will instead be joining virtually.
The G7 this year is expected to cover a broad range of issues. Unavoidably, COVID-19 will be top of the priority list as the G7 nations have been criticised for hoarding vaccines and not helping out poorer nations.
Beyond focusing on plans for the G7 nations to share vaccines, there will also be a focus on comprehensive solutions that go beyond donations of surplus vaccines.
On that note, Biden has announced that the US will be providing 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to around 100 countries by 2022. The first 200 million of these doses are expected to be distributed by the end of this year.
Another prominent issue that Biden will bring to the table at G7 is his agenda for a global minimum tax on multinational corporations to crack down on corporate tax evasion.
Following the summit, Biden and the U.S. First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, will be visiting Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle to cap off the UK leg of the tour.
Old and emerging security threats
After his trip to the UK, Biden is expected to travel to Brussels for a meeting with leaders from NATO and the EU. As stated above, a vital part of this European trip is to revitalise American alliances.
While there are other issues on the agenda, the main topic of discussion for the Brussels leg of the trip is expected to be the threat of Russia and China.
Closing ranks with NATO is seen as being particularly critical now after four years of Donald Trump cold-shouldering the organisation, leaving European leaders to wonder if it was wise to rely on the US for protection.
Following the meeting in Brussels, Biden is expected to close out his European tour with a trip to Geneva where he will have a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While Biden has vowed to raise a whole host of issues with Putin ranging from strategic arms control to the ongoing incarceration of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, Putin himself has downplayed the summit.
For the most part, no major breakthroughs are expected from this summit. All the same, there is a hope that this meeting could restore the relationship between the two nations to one of cautious cordiality rather than the current state of growing antagonism.